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Information technology experts give the thumbs up to Chennai

R.K. Radhakrishnan

They feel the metropolis needs to be branded and marketed well Though there was no session to highlight Chennai's strengths, many professionals spoke about the positives of Chennai and Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: : As the State's biggest annual information technology event, CONNECT 2005, drew to a close on Friday, the overwhelming verdict of many foreign and Indian delegates was that Chennai should be branded and `sold' better.

The mention of IT anywhere still brought images of Bangalore and, to a lesser extent, Hyderabad. Chennai was not even a blip on the radar of many overseas companies because they did not know about the city and its strengths.

At CONNECT 2005, though there was no session earmarked to highlight Chennai's strengths, many top professionals who addressed the sessions spoke about the positives of Chennai and Tamil Nadu. State officials were pleased with this, for a user's certificate was better than the State trumpeting its capabilities.

This time round the Information Technology Department, with its limited resources, concentrated on Southeast Asia, Australia and Taiwan. "The delegates and officials from Singapore, Taiwan and Australia came after having been in touch with us for a long time," said a senior official.

It also helped a great deal that Information Technology Minister D. Jayakumar and IT secretary C. Chandramouli visited some of these countries and explained Tamil Nadu's advantages. Once the thinking of IT majors and foreign investors was ascertained, the Government, with expertise drawn from the Confederation of Indian Industry, went about organising a focussed event.

Telecom and banking and financial services were highlighted. Speakers stressed the need for Information Technology Enabled Services moving up the value chain and do much more than the sophisticated book-keeping. Many, including NASSCOM chief Kiran Karnik, said Chennai's inherent strengths could handle much more than back office and updating activities for foreign companies.

Some delegates commended the "qualitative difference" of CONNECT 2005 and said if huge exhibitions had been added on and the event looked at too many areas, it would not have drawn the same response.

In concrete terms, there was Taiwan's decision to set up the Institute for Information Industry. In India, the growth of hardware manufacturing and research do not keep pace with that of software, and Taiwan's expertise in hardware technology would go a long way to bridge this gap.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa handed over documents for the Knowledge Industry Township to representatives of three software firms at the event. HCL, Wipro and Satyam are poised to develop their new campuses just outside Chennai, off Old Mahabalipuram Road. In the first phase, they will develop facilities on 377 acres. But once the plans are completed, six lakh additional jobs will be created.

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